A Chicago police lieutenant allegedly shoved a flashlight between the buttocks of a handcuffed carjacking suspect and then yelled to the 17-year-old, “That’s what you get for carjacking,” prosecutors said Thursday at a felony bond hearing for the officer.
Lt. Wilfredo Roman, 44, and other officers had just caught up to a 17-year-old boy when the incident, which was recorded on police body-worn cameras, took place on the evening of Feb. 9.
The teen allegedly carjacked a man at gunpoint and later bailed out of the car and ran off after police gave chase. The teen surrendered in an alley in the 2000 block of North Leclaire Avenue in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood as he tried to scale a fence that he’d just tossed a gun over, prosecutors said.
The teen was complaining about his handcuffs being too tight and that he’d been “just running” when Roman yelled for him to “shut up” and approached him from behind and “shoved a flashlight in between [his] buttocks,” Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary McDonnell said during the hearing.
The teen reacted by “yelling out,” she said. Roman then walked away and turned and yelled in the teen’s direction “That’s what you get for carjacking!” McDonnell said.
Roman is charged with aggravated battery in the public way and official misconduct, both felonies.
Roman’s attorney, James McKay, said he couldn’t believe the action landed his client in court and pointed out there was no penetration and the flashlight was never on bare skin but over the teen’s clothes.
“The movement of Lt. Roman is a split second, on the fleshiest part, outside of clothing, with absolutely no injury whatsoever,” he said. “This is a spank, or a spanking, for the love of God. I’ve had nuns that treated me far worse when I was a kid.”
The teen was not injured and didn’t request medical attention, McKay said.
“Your honor, the flashlight in question is smaller than my pen,” he said.
McKay said the teen was “an armed carjacker” who is 6-feet-2 and weighs 200 pounds.
Judge Arthur Willis took issue with McKay’s repeated reference to the teen’s alleged involvement in a carjacking.
“The fact that the individual may have engaged in a serious felony offense does not mean that he should be treated in any way different than anyone else who may come into contact with police,” he said. “That is not an argument that this court finds very persuasive.”
Juvenile charges against the 17-year-old and another teen accused in the carjacking are pending.
Willis allowed Roman to go free on a $5,000 I-bond, meaning that if he doesn’t show up to his next court date, Roman will be on the hook for the $5,000.
Willis denied prosecutors’ request that Roman surrender his FOID card and all his weapons.
“I will not order him to turn in his weapon at this time. That will be for the Chicago Police Department to decide if they wish to allow this man to continue exercising his police powers,” Willis said.
Roman, who lives on the Northwest Side, became a cop in 2000 and has accumulated more than 219 awards, McKay said. He also has two children and a fiance, all of whom were in court Thursday. Roman graduated from Steinmetz High School and received a criminal justice degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago before earning a master’s degree in business from St. Xavier University, McKay said.
Roman surrendered to members of the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs Wednesday night at the Central District police station at 1718 S. State St., the Chicago Police Department said in a statement Thursday.
After learning of the incident in July, four months after it occurred, the department “promptly relieved Roman” of his police powers, the statement said.
“He could face additional disciplinary actions pending the outcomes of the criminal and administrative investigations,” the statement said.
McKay said Roman had never been arrested or disciplined by the police department.
Roman earns $138,150 a year, according to a city employee database.
A spokesman for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates police wrongdoing, offered no additional information Thursday other than to say an investigation involving Roman was ongoing.
Over the course of his career, Roman has been named in three civil lawsuits that have cost the city a combined $278,000.
The first suit, filed in federal court in Chicago in 2009, accused Roman and other officers of illegally searching an apartment in the 2600 block of North Kimball Avenue a year earlier. It was settled for $18,000, records show.
Roman and a group of officers were then embroiled in another federal case stemming from an incident in August 2011 in the 900 block of North Parkside Avenue in which they allegedly chased down and shot the plaintiff, Richard Keeler, “without good cause.” Brought in 2012, the lawsuit didn’t specify which officers allegedly fired the shots that struck Keeler twice and left him “severely” wounded.
The suit further accused the officers of giving false information to investigators that led to charges of aggravated assault against Keeler, who was allegedly unarmed when he was shot. A settlement of $200,000 was ultimately reached.
The most recent case, filed in Cook County court in 2015, alleged that Roman and another officer brandished their guns and arrested two brothers without cause during a street stop in November 2013, court records show. When the plaintiff, Edward Matthews, asked why he and his brother were being targeted, Roman allegedly kneed him in the stomach.
Facing felony counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer, records show Matthews was held in Cook County Jail for months and then placed on electronic monitoring before he was found not guilty. The suit was settled for $60,000.
Roman isn’t the only Chicago cop to face charges this week.
On Wednesday, two Chicago police officers were charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct for allegedly beating a 17-year-old boy they said crashed into their unmarked squad car in January and pointed a gun at them during a pursuit on the South Side.
Officers Jeffery Shafer and Victor Guebara were released on their own recognizance after a bail hearing. They were relieved of police powers in January.